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Steelers' Roethlisberger still hurting after hard hit from Ravens' Upshaw

| Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, 9:03 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw during the first half Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, in Baltimore.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw during the first half Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, in Baltimore.
The Ravens' Courtney Upshaw sacks Steelers quarterback Ben Roethliberger during the opening drive Thursday, Sept. 21, 2014, at M&T Bank Stadium.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Ravens' Courtney Upshaw sacks Steelers quarterback Ben Roethliberger during the opening drive Thursday, Sept. 21, 2014, at M&T Bank Stadium.

Turns out it wasn't just the Steelers defense that took a hard hit in Baltimore.

Ben Roethlisberger called the hit to his chest by Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw on the Steelers' opening drive Thursday the second-hardest of his career and one that still hurts more than five days later.

“I'm hurting today as much as I was at any point I can think of in the last year,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his weekly 93.7 The Fan radio show.

“I lost my breath instantly and remember hitting the ground thinking, ‘Boy, that hurt a lot.' I kind of pride myself on not taking those big hits, but I sure as heck didn't see it coming.”

Roethlisberger had a subpar game, going 22 of 37 for 217 yards and completing only 50 percent of his passes of 10 yards or shorter. He also failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 31 games.

“I'm sure (the hit) had an impact (on his throwing),” coach Mike Tomlin said during his weekly SiriusXM NFL Radio show. “But we don't make excuses, and Ben doesn't make excuses. … (But) it was a substantial hit.

“I don't know how much it affected him, but it comes with the territory (of playing quarterback).”

During his weekly news conference, Tomlin appeared more dismissive of the injury, saying, “He's capable of playing better, and we look forward to working hard so that occurs this weekend.”

To Roethlisberger, the hit ranks up there with the one he received from the Ravens' Bart Scott in 2006. He also broke his nose on a 2010 hit from the Ravens' Haloti Ngata.

Roethlisberger said he isn't certain if he'll feel 100 percent by Sunday. If he isn't, both starting quarterbacks would be playing with soreness. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton missed the opener, but returned in Week 2 despite having a fractured rib.

Roethlisberger said he is not worried about the Steelers' inability to score since the first half against Cleveland. They have only three field goals in the past six quarters and have been outscored 50-9.

“It's just a little thing here, a little thing there. We're going to get some people involved that haven't been on the field — the Will Johnsons, the Matt Spaeths — guys we feel are too good of players not to have on the field,” Roethlisberger said. “We'll change the tempo a little more. We'll do a little bit more no-huddle.”

Of primary concern to Tomlin is finding a way to prevent opposing defenses from pounding his run defense. The Steelers are allowing 170 yards per game rushing, the fourth-highest total in team history through two games.

Only the 1950 (216.0), 1975 (195.0) and 1989 (172.0) teams gave up more rushing yards per game so early in a season.

One problem: the Steelers are missing tackles at a alarming rate, overrunning plays and getting pushed off the ball up front. That means linebackers have less reaction time to stop runs.

Asked if other issues such as being late to the ball and being out of position are a factor, Tomlin said: “It's all a concern. It really is. It's all something that needs to be addressed and quickly rectified, and that's what we're working day to day to do.”

The Steelers' inability to defend the run became an issue last season, when they ranked 21st after being No. 2 in 2012. It's carried over to this season despite the personnel adjustment.

The Panthers are 25th in rushing this season, but were 12th last season and have effective runners in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, both of whom are former 1,000-yard rushers, and Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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